Checking in with Mount Royal alumni: Kelsey McColgan
Your name, program & year of graduation at MRU
Kelsey McColgan, Bachelor of Communication—Information Design '12
Your career path in 140 character or less
Saying YES to opportunities led me to a post grad in YYZ, then back to YYC for design strategy, community engagement and now teaching at MRU!
What three words describe your student experience at MRU?
What was the most important course you took at MRU & why?
For the purposes of my students, I feel like I should say the most important course I took was COMM 1610, Tools for Information Designers, since this is the course that I'm now teaching! But in all seriousness, the most formative course I took at MRU was COMM 2680, Intercultural Communication. We learned about a thing called Information Advocacy and I got to work on a project about the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program, which included design considerations (as related to vulnerable and marginalized populations), usability and implications of the technology. This was where I first began to think of design as something that could have a very real impact on individuals and communities.
How have you invested in your community after MRU?
After MRU, I went on to study Interdisciplinary Design Strategy at the Institute without Boundaries in Toronto. In this program, we worked with Dublin City Council to improve public service delivery and help them change the way that bureaucrats communicated with citizens and vice versa. This experience helped me learn the importance of an empowered and engaged citizenry.
I currently work for a social enterprise called DIG (Do it Green), with the mission of doing just that — using events and festivals as a platform to teach the public about sustainability and promote healthy communities in Calgary. We've reached over two million people at events with our sustainability initiatives, including waste reduction and diversion, promotion of cycling as an alternate form of transportation, as well as by providing clean, fresh and free drinking water to the public in a quest to eliminate bottled water at events.
What is the best piece of advice you received at MRU that helped prepare you for your career?
I don't know that this was ever spelled out for me by any particular person, but MRU 'the institution' taught me just how much people matter. From the top, that concept of 'Face to Face' has stuck with me and is something that I've tried to incorporate into my life since. The instructors always reinforced this message with the little, genuine interactions to show that they cared, like asking how my soccer team was doing, or sticking with me when I was frustrated to the point of tears over my 'design and humanities brain' not being able to grasp stats. The importance of real, genuine, human connections cannot be understated.
In terms of my career, all of my greatest professional opportunities since, have come from fostering relationships in the spirit of that 'Face to Face' lesson that I learned in my time at Mount Royal University.
What is your claim to fame?
I'm a background type of person and I tend to stay out of the spotlight. Maybe the fact that I can name (type) all 196 countries in under 6 minutes? I'm pretty proud of this so hopefully I will one day be recognized for this impressive feat.
What do you miss most about being a student?
Before becoming an instructor, I really missed the constant learning and discovery that accompanies being a student. Since becoming an instructor though, I've found that it is actually an inherent part of this new role! I've managed to find my favourite part about being a student, without actually having to become one again—this is a great feeling.
There is a quote that I always go back to and it has become very applicable to me in this new challenge: "Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure, nor this thing nor that, but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing." -W.B. Yeats
What's it like being on the teaching side of the classroom?
Being a first-time teacher is actually a lot like being a student, ironically enough. Every lecture that I have to prepare is a mini deadline, twice a week; often resulting in late nights and the same anxiety and adrenaline rush that accompanies finishing a big assignment for class. I love it.
I don't consider myself to be a very adaptable person by nature, but as a designer, it is a skill that you develop. This is increased tenfold as a design educator. I told my first-year design students on their first day of class that they had to become comfortable with being uncomfortable and embrace the ambiguity; there is no truer statement for me as a teacher as well.